The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is now just couple of days away. Sports fans and media houses across the country are currently estimating the total number of medals India will return with from Tokyo in the next month.
While quite a few athletes are expected to comeback with a medal around the neck without much fuss, a lot others are expected to enter the Tokyo Games as dark horses - someone who can spring a surprise on any given day.
Here, we take a look at some of the athletes who could prove to be a dark horse for India during the Tokyo Olympics.
Men's Hockey Team
The Indian men's hockey team is currently ranked number 4 in the world. The Indians have improved their game by a lot over the past few years, and the results are reflecting it. They will be seen competing in Pool A consisting of Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Spain and the hosts Japan.
While the road to a podium finish is definitely not easy, a couple of good days and we might see the Manpreet Singh led side in contention to reclaim the country's lost glory in the sport.
A discus thrower from the state of Punjab, Kamalpreet Kaur was an unknown quantity until March this year. The 25-year-old surprised the Indian athletics fraternity with a national record throw of 65.06m during the Federation Cup then and earned a direct qualification to the Tokyo Olympics.
If it was not enough, Kamalpreet Kaur yet again went past the qualification mark with throwing the discus to a whopping 66.59m during the Indian Grand Prix 4 (IGP) in July. If Kaur manages to maintain this form and further her personal best by a metre or so, she would surely be a medal contender in Tokyo.
A 22-year-old from Kerala, Murali Sreeshankar started off as a sprinter before switching to long jump. The youngster, who is also an engineering topper, qualified for the Olympics with a jump of 8.26m during the Federation Cup in March this year.
While his personal best of 8.26m might not really be enough to guarantee him a podium finish, you can always expect him to do the unexpected with his father turned coach by his side.
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy - Chirag Shetty
The Indian men's doubles duo of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty were ranked number 8th in the Race to Tokyo Rankings. The draws for badminton are out and the duo finds themselves in the toughest group of the event comprising the first seeded Indonesians Kevin Sukamuljo and Marcus Gideon and the world number 3 pair of Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin of Chinese Taipei.
Both Satwik and Chirag need to be at their best if they are to stand any chance of making it through to the podium.
Achanta Sharath Kamal - Manika Batra
Four Indian table tennis players will be seen representing India at the Tokyo Olympics in the singles events. But, it is the newly introduced event of mixed doubles wherein India will have the best chance of winning their first-ever Olympic medal in the sport.
The pair of Sharath Kamal Achanta and Manika Batra have produced some brilliant results during the past few years, and would be just a couple of good matches away from being a serious contender for a podium finish.
The entire media focus in pistol shooting for India has been on the teenage sensations, Saurabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker, and the 31-year-old Abhishek Verma has flown under the radar. Verma is ranked number 1 in the Tokyo 2020 rankings and number 3 in the 2021 in the world rankings, having produced some very good results over the past few years.
Abhishek Verma has time and again proved his skills at the highest level and there is a very good chance that we might see him in the podium alongside Saurabh Chaudhary in men's 10m air pistol in Tokyo.
Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar
Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar is just 20-year-old and will be seen competing in the men's 50m rifle 3 positions event. The Madhya Pradesh lad is ranked number 1 in the world in 2021 and is second in the Tokyo 2020 rankings.
He surely has the skill to come up trumps under pressure, and definitely would not be a surprise if Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar manages to reach the podium in his first Olympic appearance.
Mary Kom needs no introduction. She has been the flag bearer of Indian boxing since a long long time. A total of six World Championships gold medals and an Olympic bronze among other honours, and you know why she is one of the greatest ever sportspersons to have emerged out of India.
But, the past glory will not be enough to earn her a medal in Tokyo. The 38-year-old is ranked number 7th in the world currently and will be unseeded in the Olympics. A second Olympic medal in her second appearance and Mary Kom will surely be an undisputed GOAT of Indian sports.
Just 19-year-old Anshu Malik qualified for the Tokyo Olympics during the Asian Wrestling qualifiers. The Haryana girl has displayed some solid skills in the mat during her short career, and will surely be a dark horse in Women's 57kg weight division in the Olympics.
Yet another 19-year-old from Haryana, Sonam Malik too qualified for the Tokyo Olympics via the Asian qualifiers. Sonam was paralysed three years ago and has made a stunning comeback to qualify for the 2020 Games. In fact, she defeated the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik to make it to the Asian Wrestling qualifiers squad.
Ravi Dahiya will be seeded fourth in the men's freestyle 57kg weight division at the Tokyo Olympics. An alumnus of the Chhatrasal Stadium, Ravi Dahiya qualified for the Olympics way back in the year 2019 with a bronze medal during his World Championships debut in Nur Sultan. He has since won two Asian Championship gold medals and will certainly be one of the most feared wrestlers in Tokyo.
Much like Ravi Dahiya, Deepak Punia too qualified for the Tokyo Olympics by winning a silver medal at the 2019 World Championships in Nur Sultan. The 22-year-old will be the second seed in men's 86kg freestyle and would be seen as the one to beat by the best wrestlers in the world during the Tokyo Olympics.